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Home Strengthen Relationships FAMILIES Parenting Affirmations for Your Child

Affirmations for Your Child

BY ARLENE F. HARDER, MA, MFT

This article encourages you to recognize the correlation between the age of a child and the personal and interpersonal skills he needs to develop at each stage of growth.


Words of Encouragement

Click on the picture to begin a FLASH PRESENTATION showing examples of affirmations parents can use as children grow through six stages. Then it adds a seventh stage, the rest of life, when adults incorporate and integrate what they have learned in earlier stages.

Note: If you don't have a Flash player, first click here for a FREE download.

After watching the flash presentation and reading the suggested affirmations for the stages below, don't miss How to Discover Encouraging Words for Everyone.

This page introduces a CD designed to have you imagine you are a child with loving, nurturing parents who know what to say to you as you grow. The booklet that comes with it includes additional examples of affirmations than those given below.

Also, on that page you can listen to an excerpt of the CD for the first stage of growth. Discover whether your parents conveyed the message of trusting the world, and simply being in the world, that are the earliest stepping stones to becoming a resourceful, resilient and compassionate adult.


BIRTH TO SIX MONTHS:
Help Your Infant Learn About BEING and TRUST

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If your baby is 'beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on schedule and burps on demand, an angel all the time,' you're the grandma.

— Theresa Bloomingdale

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Baby held in hand of parent

The developmental task of all new babies is to trust that the world will support them, to know they are welcome in the family, and to learn that simply "being" in the world is important. With recent research on the brain, we know that bonding at this stage can set the foundation for the rest of the child's life. When parents recognize what their child needs at this first stage of growth, they can give them the affirmations on which to build a solid foundation.

Of course, when we speak of "affirmations" for infants, we don't particularly mean words, although even very young children can recognize their mothers voice at birth. Nevertheless, you may wonder how affirmations apply to an infant since a newborn hasn't learned a language yet. But the messages parents and others give to newborns aren't expressed only in words. Babies learn it is their right to be in the world and to have their needs taken care of when their caregivers bond with them emotionally and gently nurture them with touch and loving care. That is why a soothing tone of voice is as important for an infant as the verbal encouragement offered a toddler who is afraid to go down a slide.

Every time you gently hold a baby who has been fussing, you are teaching her that the world is a safe place to be. Every time you feed her when she has been crying, you are teaching her that she can get her needs met by letting others know what she wants. When you respond to her needs quickly and sensitively, she gradually learns how to comfort herself. When you talk with her as you change her diaper or put her in the car seat, you build on the language capacity her brain is programmed to develop.

Two of the affirmations you need to convey to children from birth to six months are:

  • We love holding you and having you near us
  • We cherish you because you are a gift to the world.

SIX MONTHS TO EIGHTEEN MONTHS:
Learning About DOING THINGS

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We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Twins played in front of mirrosIn this developmental stage the task is to move out in the world, explore, and develop a sensory awareness by doing. Inquisitive babies are too young to learn self-discipline and unable to share, so caregivers need to provide a safe environment and limit's "no's" to important issues, helping children "to do" as well as "to be."

Thus, children of this age will sit on the floor playing with toys and when a ball with a rattle rolls out of their reach, they will crawl after it and pick it up with delight, exploring it in their mouths to get a taste of it. They'll hold it in their hands to see what it feels like, squealing with delight at the colors and the noise it makes when they shake it. In such an atmosphere they experience how much fun it can be to explore their world.e."

Two of the affirmations you need to convey to children from six months to eighteen months are:

  • We encourage you to be curious.
  • We delight in your discoveries.

EIGHTEEN MONTHS TO THREE YEARS:
Learning About THINKING and FEELING

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Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it.

— Harold Hulbert

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Boy 20-months-old on slideIn this developmental stage the task is for children to think for themselves, to be assertive, and to begin to separate from their parents. Although the young children continue to be dependent when needed, nevertheless the "terrible two's" are appropriately named as they discover their ability to express themselves forcefully and parents need to provide a great deal of information, how-to's, and reasons.

The battle of wills that develops between parents and their young children is as old as humankind itself. The reason is simply that sometime, around the second birthday, a toddler makes an interesting discovery. She notices she has a will. Unfortunately, her will is not always in line with yours and thus, wanting to exercise this new facet of her personality, she will become defiant and resist at every opportunity.

If you are fortunate to have a child who comes with an easier, more calm temperament, congratulations. But even the most gentle of children can find a way to say "no, I won't move because I'm having too much fun putting these blocks together"—just when you need them to say "yes, I'd be glad to stop playing right this moment and go with you to a boring store because I can see you need to get food for dinner."

What's a parent to do, or a grandparent or other caregiver? You don't want to squelch her budding sense of self, but on the other hand, you don't want to create a spoiled child whose sense of entitlement to always have her way will eventually develops problems for her, and you, in the future. That's why these are appropriate affirmations for this age.

Two of the affirmations you need to convey to children eighteen months to three years are:

  • We're glad when you think for yourself.
  • It's okay to be angry and frustrated, but we won't let you hurt yourself or others.

THREE YEARS TO SIX YEARS:
Learning About POWER and IDENTITY

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Notoriously insensitive to subtle shifts in mood, children will persist in discussing the color of a recently sighted cement-mixer long after one’s own interest in the topic has waned.

— Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life, 1978

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4-year-old boy with toysThe tasks for children in this developmental stage are to learn who they are in relationship to others and to begin practicing socially appropriate behavior. They also need to differentiate between what is real and what is fantasy and to acquire information about the world, their bodies, and their sex roles.

Two of the affirmations you need to convey to children three years to six years:

  • We enjoy having you explore who you are and finding out who other people are.
  • You can feel powerful and capable and still ask for help when you want it.

SIX YEARS TO THIRTEEN YEARS:
Learning About STRUCTURE and SKILL

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Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

— James Baldwin

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Boy on a scooterThe tasks for children in this developmental stage relate primarily to the power of being skillful and include learning to do things their own way, to explore the importance of rules, to continue separating reality from fantasy, and to test rules within a firm and loving environment. Also, children need caregivers who can explain their own values, listen, meet their needs, and make clear which family values and rules are not negotiable, while also allowing disagreements to help them practice adult thinking.

Two of the affirmations you need to convey to children six years to thirteen years

  • You can discover how to manage both challenges and frustration.
  • We love you even when we disagree.

THIRTEEN YEARS TO NINETEEN YEARS:
Learning About IDENTITY, SEXUALITY AND SEPARATION

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Show Miss Manners a grown-up who has happy memories of teenage years, with their endless round of merry-making and dancing the night away, and Miss Manners will show you a person who has either no heart or no memory.

— Judith Martin

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The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant—and let the air out of their tires.

— Dorothy Parker

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American teenager with cell phoneIn this final stage before adulthood, children come up against several important developmental tasks they must master if they are to emerge as independent people with their own values and with responsibility for their own needs, feelings, and behaviors.

Although teenagers may claim not to care what their parents think, caregivers play essential roles as teens move from competence to rebelliousness, from using logic to arguing every unimportant detail, and from being both independent and dependent. Probably more than other stages, young people are desperately trying to find their feet in a world where the ground seems to constantly shift under them. They need guidance in experimenting with being sexual (which is not the same as being sexually active) and in finding a comfortable place among adults.

Two of the affirmations you need to convey to children thirteen years to nineteen years:

  • You can be responsible for your own needs, feelings and behaviors and still ask for our support.
  • You can stand up for your beliefs and also respect the convictions of others.

Best wishes in helping your child develop the skills he or she needs as they go through these six stages.

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© Copyright 2004, Revised 2012 Arlene F Harder, MA, MFT

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